As many of you may know – this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s most acclaimed novel Pride and Prejudice. I am a huge fan of period dramas and the film [featuring Kiera Knightly] is my go-to Sunday afternoon comfort watch.
This year is also a big year for me – it is my 30th birthday year! For years I had dreamt of throwing a Pride and Prejudice themed party with Regency costumes, in a historic setting, elegant but silly dancing and appropriately charming props.
As fate would have it my 30th birthday coincided with this very anniversary and so – on the hottest weekend of the year [this past weekend] my very loving friends and family all donned period costumes for a day of dinner and dancing at a beautiful historic venue dating from 1670 in the heart of Spitalfields in London.
I of course chose to be Lizzie Bennet and David – Mr Darcy – my best girlfriends arrived in an array of empire line gowns in pastel hues! There were silly Lydia Bennet’s and wicked Wickhams and some seriously creepy characters – one of my husband’s female cousins arrived in drag as a ‘young squire of dubious character’ running gleeful chills up our spines! We ended the night with a raucous Regency dance led by my in-laws – it was a day and a night I will always remember!
So coming to the cookie part which was the icing on my cake… for as long as I’ve imagined this party, I’ve been dreaming of styling it with silhouette cookies as party gifts. You may have noticed my post earlier this month gushing about Printmeneer who custom makes cookie cutters. For my party I pinged over a a silhouette of a Mr Darcy type character found on Google Images and an iconic silhouette of Jane Austen – and for under £30 he posted over two very large cookie cutters that I will cherish forever.
I made 50 Mr Darcy and Jane silhouettes iced in Coral and Mint hues. Here’s how.
I used a simple sweet biscuit recipe for the base and adjusted the quantity for my 50 cookies. This recipe makes 24 palm sized biscuits
- 100g/3½oz unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 100g/3½oz caster sugar
- 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
- 275g/10oz plain flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Mix all the ingredients together until you have a non-sticky dough [keep adding flour if necessary]. Roll out on a floured board and cut out your shapes with your cutter. Place them on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 8-10 minutes or until pale golden brown.
Royal Icing Recipe
I have always had a fascination with this glossy icing that dries in an attractive matt finish, it is delicious and gives baked treats a wonderfully nostalgic crisp and sugary taste.
- 1 egg white whisked
- 300g of Icing Sugar
- 1 tsp of Almond Essence
- Squeeze of lemon juice to loosen
- Food colouring. I used Red and Green in small quantities to achieve Coral and Mint
Add the whisked egg-white to a large bowl and add icing sugar bit by bit whilst whisking with an electric whisk [you could do it with a hand whisk too]. Add the food colouring and almond essence and lemon juice to get the right consistency which should be thick and runny.
My favourite part was of course icing the biscuits, which involved a process called ‘outlining and flooding’. Here is the video I watched to learn how [I especially enjoyed the appropriate music!].
You will definitely need a few tries to master the technique if you are working on a design as tricky as I was. What I found worked best for an intricate design was outlining the silhouette using thick icing first and allowing the outlines to harden slightly [the video doesn't use this method]. By the time you have outlined your last biscuit your first one will have hardened and will be ready for flooding.
Then I would recommend making the rest of the icing slightly runnier using lemon juice making it more malleable for filling in the centre of the biscuits – and thinner so you don’t have to use as much.